Do you know the story of Cincinnatus? He was a Roman general who had retired to his farm until he was called to rescue his country from an invasion. Made dictator in these desperate times, he had unlimited power, which he used to save the empire… only to immediately relinquish the power and return to his farm.
Is the story true? Does it matter? George Washington knew this story—it was almost certainly read to him as a boy—and modeled his life on it. From this legend came real history—it shaped Washington’s life and the life of the country he helped found.
The same goes for the story of Washington and the cherry tree. Is it true? Probably not. But for generations, children were taught this story and it shaped real lives and the country they lived in.
Today, we don’t tell these stories enough. Children’s books are all about robots and talking dogs. Or they are preposterously inappropriate totems for parents to virtue signal with (who thought this book was a good idea?) History books as kids get older are all about facts, they’re all about punching holes in things, in showing how the heroes of the past were all racists and hypocrites.
And then we wonder why we live in a world devoid of courage. Where irony reigns and inspiration is replaced by nihilism. Of course these things are gone. There is only one way to get them back: By telling your children of Cincinnatus. Teach them the legends and myths of the past. Show them what greatness looks like, even if it’s through the haze of hagiography. Give them someone to look up to.
P.S. This was originally sent on March 30, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”